The call for applications is well under way for Circulator 2.0, the University of Helsinki’s circular economy pre-incubator, and we are so excited to soon meet the new teams and see all the entrepreneurial solutions they come up with in tackling issues in sustainability. To make the wait a little easier, we spoke with participants of the previous Circulator and asked them how the first programme was for them and find out what participants for this round of the programme can look forward to! Today, we're talking with Bhagyashri Khot, who sat down and told us about her experience.
Khot moved to Finland in June 2022. With a long career in landscape architecture behind her, she wanted to continue working with environmentalism in mind. Yet, getting started in an unfamiliar context proved to be difficult for her: “I had fifteen years of experience, but no idea how to contribute in a new country,” says an exasperated Khot. So, she joined the Espoo career club, where she met Santeri Tuovila, the project lead for Circulator. “I told him about my situation, and he suggested that I come to the Circulator sessions to brainstorm ideas. And here I still am!”
At the start of the programme, Khot was unsure what she wanted to start working on. All she knew was that she wanted to work with combatting climate change. To Khot, circular economy felt like a good place to start, because of its significance in building a more sustainable future: “I believe that circular economy is definitely one of the most important elements in changing our practices for the better,” she remarks. In the end, Circulator 1.0 and its clear structure helped Khot get clarity about the kind of problem she wanted to solve, something she is thankful for: “So many of the sessions and their themes and topics were connected to each other. The flow of the sessions helped me clear the fog in my mind and visualise better what I wanted to do.”
Khot started off with the idea of using circular practices to reintroduce “bad” or once used land into new cycles of reuse, but ended up taking up a more specific focus on biodiversity protection and ecological restoration. Now her solution aspires to build a single-point decision support system that provides easily accessible and digestible data about revivable areas, allowing for more informed and prompt actions in conservation.
Khot says that she still uses practically all the skills she learned in Circulator 1.0. But what was the most valuable lesson for her? Khot reflects on this for a while. “The session on impact was the most enlightening for me. I’m not a business person, so I gained a lot of confidence in the knowledge that a solution’s impact is the only thing that matters in the end. I can have a business without knowing how to have a business!” she laughs. “The only thing I really need is faith in the impact of my idea. That is the primary motivation for me.”
In the end, however, Khot’s favourite part about Circulator 1.0 was the friends she made: “The programme wasn’t just about the ventures and sessions, it was the connections we made with each other,” Khot reminisces. “There were so many different people from different fields, but it felt as though we were all working together. And now when we meet, we still have so much to talk about. I have so many great memories with others from the programme, and it was wonderful to have their support, knowing that they were going through the same experience. I still keep contact with many of them!”
Khot is also still connected with Tuovila and Alisa Mick, organisers of the first Circulator. They still give her recommendations about who to meet and how to refine her idea. “I’m so thankful for Santeri and Alisa’s commitment. I’m actually hoping they would take roles of advisors for me once I have a business in place!” Khot says excitedly.
Khot has certainly kept busy during the short while she has lived in Finland. After Circulator 1.0, she applied to Biosphere, the incubator designed as the next step for Circulator participants who want additional and more advanced guidance with their solutions. Khot wanted to continue working on her idea further, and to bring it to a point where she could run it independently as a business. Together with team member Fernando Urbano Tenorio, her goal right now is to create a finished product—a prototype model to present to investors, buyers, and service providers.
It is clear that Khot’s attitude has been, from the beginning, one of fearlessness: “I’d say that the most important characteristic in an aspiring entrepreneur is to have complete faith,” she describes. “Even if you aren’t consciously aware of your learning, in reality, you’re gaining so much without realizing it. Move with that faith, and trust the process and yourself,” Khot says with a warm smile.
Circulator 2.0 will run from 14 April to 9 June, and will consist of bi-weekly workshops and lectures designed to help you kick-start your journey in entrepreneurship. Apply to the programme by 31 March here, and for more information, visit our programme webpage! We also warmly invite you to sign up to our open “Get to know the programme” sessions held on 8 March 16:00–17:00 at the Helsinki Incubators event space at Vuorikatu 3 and 15 March 16:00–17:00 at the Helsinki Think Company Viikki space at Latokartanonkaari 3.